The Most Challenging Treks in Nepal

The Nepalese Himalayas attract adventure travellers throughout the main season
The Nepalese Himalayas attract adventure travellers throughout the main season | © ANJALI KUMARI / Alamy Stock Photo
Elen Turner

Contributor

You don’t have to be capable of scaling Mount Everest to enjoy many of Nepal’s outdoor pursuits. However, some trekking routes here are only suitable for those with plenty of experience. Whether lengthy, cold, high-in-altitude or a combination of these, here are our picks of the most challenging treks. But you know what they say – no pain, no gain.

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1. Three Passes Trek

Natural Feature, Park, Hiking Trail

Two trekkers ascending a snowy ridge near Gokyo on the Three Passes Trek,Nepal Himalayas
© shoults / Alamy Stock Photo

This very challenging trek crosses three passes of over 5,000m (16,404ft) – Kongma La, Cho La and Renjo La. It passes through the Everest region, starting and ending at the same point (Lukla), so it’s a good option for experienced trekkers who have perhaps already done Everest Base Camp (EBC) and are looking for a greater challenge. It also visits Kala Patthar, for incredible views of EBC, and the vibrant Gokyo Lakes.

2. Dhaulagiri Circuit

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

Dhaulagiri Peak as seen from Poon Hill, Ghorepani, Annapurna Circuit Trek, Nepal
© sam oakes / Alamy Stock Photo

The circuit around Mount Dhaulagiri is often called the most challenging trek in Nepal for several reasons. First, it’s a camping trek, meaning there are no comfortable (or even basic) lodgings to retreat to at the end of the day or if the weather turns bad. Second, it’s necessary to spend three days in a row trekking above 5,000m (16,404ft). At that altitude, many travellers experience a light head, racing heart and difficulty sleeping. And thirdly, you’ll often have to trek and sleep in snowy conditions. Dhaulagiri may not be the most comfortable trek out there, but if you’re very fit, very experienced and up for a very big challenge, it’s unforgettable.

4. Nar Phu Valley

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

View into the grand valley of the mountain village with its terraces Nar Nar-Phu Annapurna Region Nepal
© imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

The wild Nar Phu Valley was closed to trekkers as recently as 2002, making a visit here all the more special. It lies between the more visited Annapurna and Manaslu regions. Long trekking days and steep ascents make this route a real challenge, with the highest elevation at 5,240m (17,192ft). As the Nar Phu Valley is sparsely inhabited and contains no trekking infrastructure, the distances between possible places to stay are long. But this is a beautiful trek for its sense of solitude, as well as the incredible mountain landscapes and the colourful Tibetan Buddhist chortens (shrines) that Nar and Phu are famous for.

5. Rolwaling with the Tashi Lapcha Pass

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

The Rolwaling Valley sits between Langtang and the Khumbu region. The trek starts at the edge of the Gaurishankar Conservation Area, crosses the very high Tashi Lapcha Pass and ends in Lukla. The Rolwaling Valley is not often visited by foreign trekkers, so you’ll likely have trails all to yourself (until you cross into the Everest region, that is). It is a very challenging trek, however, as the Tashi Lapcha Pass is extremely high and strenuous and usually covered in snow.

6. Manaslu Circuit Trek

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

Trekkers walking through woodland on the later stages of the Manaslu Circuit trek in the Nepal Himalayas
© shoults / Alamy Stock Photo

Although the Manaslu Circuit region has seen an increase in development in recent years, which has made the trekking infrastructure more extensive, it is still a remote route to choose from. The trek will take you around Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest mountain, on a route dotted with teahouses, suspension bridge crossings and varied scenery – from subtropical forest to Himalayan foothills and the challenging snow-covered pass of Larkya La, at 5,125m (16,814ft).

7. Kanchenjunga Trek

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

The Kanchenjunga Trek, in eastern Nepal, is one of the longest treks in the country at around 27 days. You’ll circumnavigate Mount Kanchenjuna, which at a height of 8,586m (28,169ft) which is the third-highest mountain in the world, straddling Nepal and India. Start at the north of the mountain trekking south, you’ll cross the Mirgin La en route. You’ll find that not so many visitors make it out to the east of Nepal, but this is considered one of the finest treks in the country.

8. Poon Hill

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

Tourists watch the sunrise at the top of Poon Hill in Himalayas, Nepal
© Yulia Babkina / Alamy Stock Photo

Alright, this one isn’t actually very hard compared to others on this list, but it is much harder than many people realise. The three-to-five-day trek is a good one if you don’t have a lot of time to stray far from the beaten path. You’ll pass quaint villages and forest canopies before making the steep ascent up the many, many stairs which eventually take you to an altitude of 3,200m (10,499ft). Expect incredible sunrise views of the Annapurnas; just don’t underestimate those steps.

9. The Great Himalaya Trail

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature

The Great Himalaya Trail is a network of shorter trails that run the length of the Nepali Himalayas, connecting them all and providing a continuous trek for those up for the adventure of a lifetime. The trail is divided into a high route and a low route, passing through higher or lower elevations, respectively. This may just be the ultimate Nepal challenge, but also the ultimate adventure.

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